The Book of Good Love


The Book of Good Love (El libro de buen amor), considered to be one of the masterpieces of Spanish poetry, is a semi-biographical account of romantic adventures by Juan Ruiz, the Archpriest of Hita, the earliest version of which dates from 1330; the author completed it with revisions and expansions in 1343.The work is considered as the best piece in the medieval genre known as mester de clerecía. The Book begins with prayers and a guide as to how to read the work, followed by stories each containing a moral and often comical tale. The book contains a heterogeneous collection of diverse materials united around a supposed autobiographical narrative of the author's own love affairs, which is represented in one part of the book by the episodic character of don Melón de la Huerta. In it, all the layers of Spanish low-medieval society are represented through their lovers. In the course of the main plot, fables and apologists are interspersed, constituting a collection of exempla. There are also allegories, morals, sermons, songs by the blind and schoolchildren of the Goliardesque type. Profane lyrical compositions (serranillas, often parodic, derived from pastorelas) are also collected alongside other religious ones, such as hymns and joys to the Virgin or Christ. The narrative materials are based on the parody of the medieval elegiac comedies in Latin pseudo-ovidian school environment, such as De vetula and Pamphilus, in which the author is the protagonist of love adventures that alternate with poems linked to them. Pamphilus is also mentioned in the Book of Good Love as the basis for the episode of Don Melón and Doña Endrina. In addition to material derived from Ovid's Ars amandi, the liturgy of the canonical hours or the chants of deeds is also parodied, as in the battle of Don Carnal with Doña Laresma. Other genres that can be found in the Book are the plantos, like the fact to the death of Trotaconventos, a character that constitutes the clearest precedent of La Celestina or the satires, like those directed against the lady girls or the equalizing power of money; the fables, of the esoteric medieval tradition or pedagogical manuals, like the Facetus, that considers the loving education as part of the human learning. Although Arab sources have been proposed, current criticism is inclined to consider that The Book of Good Love descends from medieval Latin clerical literature.
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original title: Libro de Buen Amor
language: Old Spanish
genre: Mester de clerecía
characters: Trotaconventos

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